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Sailing to Byzantium, By W. B. Yeats

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Sailing to Byzantium is a powerful Irish poem. Another week, another Yeats poem! He features so many times in the top 100 Irish poems list that it is hard not to feature him. The central theme behind this beautiful poem is man vs eternity and nature. It comes in at number 13 on the top 100 Irish poems list.

I would have to say that of all of Yeats’s poems; this one is a powerful poem. And if you, for some reason, don’t know who W.B Yeats is, William Butler Yeats was a Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer, widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

Old sailing poem by Yeats -  Sailing to Byzantium

Written in 1926 and included in Yeats’s most outstanding single collection, 1928’s The Tower. I guess as we know, the older we get, the more we tend to look back on life. This was certainly evident in last week’s Irish poem Another September. Yeats really goes into the difficulty of keeping one’s soul alive in a fragile, failing human body. Yeats is leaving Ireland to sail to Byzantium, an ancient Greek city.

I hope you enjoy this once again wonderful Irish poem by W. B Yeats. 

Sailing to Byzantium

I
 
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
 
 
II
 
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
 
 
III
 
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
 
 
IV
 
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
 

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